There are people who only use the phrase "It's better to give than to receive" when giving gifts during the holiday season.
Not Chris Leone and Annette Callahan and their three children.
The couple has spent years teaching their two sons—Nicholas, 8, and Andrew, 6—and 3-year-old daughter Ellie the meaning of charity.
The family's inspirational story began when Nicholas was 5 months old, strapped to Chris's back while she handed out warm clothes and food to homeless men and women in Baltimore.
The family had tried for "many years" to conceive a child. So once Nicholas was born they wanted to instill in their children the same gratitude they experienced.
They gave their sons an opportunity to start charitable projects. Nicholas chose the name "From the Heart" for his project, which has evolved into an annual donation of warm food and clothing to the homeless on Thanksgiving.
Andrew helps organize a summer carnival for children who suffer from domestic abuse.
"When he was born we said we wanted to do something in his name. When he's older he'll take over," said Chris, a mother of three and Cockeysville resident. "We do it every year, rain or shine."
Her children's devotion was put to the test this past Thanksgiving as steady rainfall dampened an emotionally moving morning at the corner of Baltimore and Gay streets. Dozens of volunteers, many of whom were Nicholas' school friends, handed out 250 Thanksgiving dinners and layers of warm clothing.
"I like meeting the people, all the homeless people," Nicholas said. "I like talking to them and I like handing out the sodas and I like making them feel special."
William Brown, 48, said he had been to every "From the Heart" day for the last eight years.
"I love it. Every year it's a blessing for me and the people on the street," he said. "These kids are great."
The two projects Chris and Annette's sons organize require year-round planning.
"I ride my bike around the whole neighborhood putting things in people's mailboxes," Nicholas said. He also spreads the word to his classmates and friends at Pot Spring Elementary School in Timonium where he is in the third grade.
"They all say 'ooooh,' and they ask me if they can come," Nicholas said.
The family's dedication to helping others has spread across the neighborhood and into other communities. The majority of helpers have become close friends.
"It's about teaching the children about being grateful and appreciate things and being kind to everybody," said Callahan. "For the longest time the kids didn't know Thanksgiving was Thanksgiving. They thought it was Homeless Day. They didn't even know that you're supposed to eat dinner that day."
First grader Andrew's project, a carnival for children suffering from domestic abuse, is held in the summer.
"We kind of do the same thing that Nick does. We make them feel loved. … If you help others it makes your heart feel good, " Andrew said.
When the boys become older, they'll take over the brunt of organizing their respective events. When their daughter Ellie, now 3, becomes old enough, she too will have her own project.
Chris said she hopes to develop a bicycle and helmet giveaway in the city.
"We want to give people the ability to move around," she said.